One of the great Renaissance playwrights, Middleton wrote tragedies essentially different from either Marlowe's or Shakespeare's, being wittier than the former and more grittily ironic than the latter. The genre of 'citizen tragedy' came into its own in the eighteenth century, but Middleton can claim to have created it: Bianca, wife of a middling commercial agent, arouses the lust of the Duke of Florence and becomes his mistress, first secretly, then openly and finally, after her husband has been seduced by the scheming Lady Livia and stabbed by Livia's brother, the Duke's wife. Livia plots her revenge, and the play ends with a banquet and a masque that are a triumph of black farce. Middleton's powerful, psychologically complex female characters and his clear-sighted analysis of misogyny are bound to impress today's audiences, but it is the pervasive irony - cynicism, even - with which he dissects the motivations of both oppressor and victim that makes him so eerily modern.
Thomas Middleton's Jacobean drama spreads like a web around the the black- widow figure of Livia... it is clear that Livia's deviousness is a profoundly cynical response to the hipocrisy of a society in which women are powerless and men do as they please.' Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 29.04.10 'Thomas Middleton's 17th- century study of self- survival and the destruction of innocence' Clare Allfree, Metro (London), 29.04.10 'A sardonic masterwork that admits one to the world of fuliginous cruelty.' Michael Billington, Guardian, 29.04.10 'Dark, decadent and immensely stylish, Women Beware Women makes you laugh even as you shiver.' Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph, 29.04.10 'A fiercely felt, finely wrought, seldom-seen play by one of Shakespeare's contemporaries.' Susannah Clapp, Obcerver, 02.05.10